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You can't make money without selling something real. ~James Altucher

You can t make money without selling something real James Altucher


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James Altucher writes in "10 Reasons You Will Quit Your Job in 2013":

You can’t make money without selling something real. You can’t make something real without first imagination manifesting itself in your head. You can’t have imagination without surrendering yourself to an idea that you want to create something of value to other human beings.


Don’t stay at the job for safe salary increases over time. That will never get you where you want – freedom from financial worry. Only free time, imagination, creativity, and an ability to disappear will help you deliver value that nobody ever delivered before in the history of mankind...

This is one of my favorite topics about which James writes. 

Right now I'm giving exams to 30 kids sitting here drooling on a Scantron test that does nothing to prepare them to create. They're in a system that was designed to produce factory workers 200 years ago--I know, I study this stuff, and I'm sitting not 5 miles from the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Slater Mill. 

I was recently told, "If you're not teaching your 250 kids to code, you're doing them a disservice." Maybe "code" is a little SV-extreme, but they should all be able to think outside the box and create. And so, I sneak in those lessons--because there will be no safety net, no pension, no 30 year career with the same loyal company for these guys.  James is right in heralding the cry create and innovate. I think these guys will end up being flexible. It's people a little older that have to make that paradigm shift, and do it quick.

Dawn- TOTALLY AGREE with you... which is exactly why I started my own startup, WishStars (  We MUST break out of a 100 year old education model so that our children get real practical hands on experience with trying, failing, and trying again on tools relevant to the 21st century.  This is the heart of innovation.  If we do it right and do it now, these kids will be equipped - and motivated - to pioneer the next generation of revolutionary improvements and capabilities for the world.  If we keep using our system of education to test to the minimum standards where failure is not an option, our kids will not be prepared to become successfully self-sufficient adults who can thrive in the world, much less lead it.  And to make any of this work, we have to help the teachers.

Here's my metric for success... 1.Do you have a vision? If yes, let's make a plan. 2. Would I pass this student through to my friends for a job? If yes, we have been successful. If no, why? Fix it.

P.S.  I love your glue stick essay. It's fantastic:) Funny... 

Great metrics, Dawn!!  We spent a LOT of time with educators and businesses of all sizes talking to them about their particular pain points when it comes to teaching and hiring.  I was at an awards event for hosted by my local tech council this past spring and we had several students there we were awarding for various things (high juniors and seniors - some really great kids!) and one of the guest speakers who works with high school kids threw this slide up on the wall that showed at that point in time - May 2012 - there were 30 million jobs in the top 5 growth sectors that we currently open and companies couldn't fill.  I was stunned because we are currently in the midst of an unprecedented global economic crisis -- and we can't fill jobs because we don't have the right kind of talent.  I see this as a pipeline problem -- but not through the filter of the Industrial Revolution.  I see it as a screaming indicator that we need to be creating an Innovation Revolution.  As the mom of two school aged kids - and a 20 year technologist - I felt compelled to act now so that my kids - and their peers - are set up with the experiences they need to survive, succeed, and lead. Kids are natural innovators.  I see classrooms as incubators and educators as the gatekeepers of the future.  We - parents, businesses, and other advocates - need to do more to help educators succeed in their mission with our children. If we get it right, everyone of us will be better off for it.

Thanks for your kind words.  I KNOW there millions of parents who have had the same experience! ;O)

Your startup looks good--good luck w release--I'll send you a message. 

Christine, thanks for sharing your startup:

Dawn, I think you're right that not everyone should learn to code.

There are several other important skills -- reading, writing, and math -- that form the basis for communication in the world we live in. I would MUCH rather see everyone learn those things.

True, but the emphasis needs to be on analysis. The days of disconnected trivia should be gone. Has to be on "What can you DO?"

Yes, the "What can you DO" is critical...and it's what's missing - with few exceptions - from our education system.

Adam- Thanks you!

You're welcome.

Question: A person cannot engage in "what can you DO" analysis until s/he has basic communication and mathematics skills, right?

I ask because I still feel like STEM is important to all, but so are verbal skills.

Too often these days I meet college graduates without those basic skills. How???

You don't want to open that can, Adam...Has to be balance. I can integrate STEM into my lesson on XXX-- (Remember--7 steps to Kevin Bacon?). You meet these college grads because texting is high stakes. It should be diagnostic. When you give a bunch of people a goal and say: If you don't meet it you will all be fired, damned straight they will meet it... Let's take a chapter from Soviet history here--analyze an average 5 year plan. What idiot is going to make a 5 year plan that makes them stretch? Um, nobody. So, we get a series of 5 year plans that drive production down and ruin the entire free market. No different here.  Then you install a system that superimposes fear onto the equation... 

Fear is the opposite of entrepreneurship. The best entrepreneurs fail. They learn from failure. They move on. Not true in education--you can't take a risk and adjust. You'll be out the door. Expect much more of a dumbing-down trend unless this changes. 

Adam-you are right.  The basics are critical and I have hired too many college grads who are so severely lacking in them I wondered how they ever got to college....until I realized that college has become an extension of the problem space that is K-12 education which is more an exercise in executing an SOP and less an exercise for learning while doing.  I love STEM but to me, STEM isn't the focus because STEM isn't a solution.  Technology is an enabler.  And the only way we will ever get a wholesale paradigm shift for HOW we teach our children is if we create an environment in which the tools we use to teach them not only are relevant to their future - but allow us to create an environment in which technology can intuitively adapt to the specific learning needs of kids - and the specific way in which they learn WHILE they are learning.  The problem (as I see it) right now, is that we put the full load of this on teachers - and we don't give them the resources they need to be able to do it.  Walk into most classrooms and there are at least 24 kids who are lumped into "integrated" learning environments where the medium for education is 1 teacher and the metric by which to measure how it's going is the SOL score. 

Take a look at this.  It's long and a little slow to start.  But if you take what Daphne Koller and her team is using online education to learn about how people learn and then re-imagine a 4th grade classroom where technology is adaptively learning how a student learns while the student is learning and then addressing the specific needs of the child WHILE AT THE SAME TIME letting the teacher have a view into that process so that she can intervene in the right way for that child at the right time, then you will get an idea of how I envision education functioning when it's functioning well and using technology as an enabler and not a solution.

You both have a fascinating perspective. Thank you for the Daphne Koller video!

Also relevant is this thread:

I was on a plane heading to Chicago a month ago for an interview on a show about WishStars and I was sitting next to a woman with a doctorate in Biology who works in epidemiological data analytics and we were talking about the general state of education and my perspective and her perspective on it and the trends we are seeing in grads coming out of college and I mentioned how one of the things that really made me feel that college was more marketing tactic then institution of higher learning was the fact that you can get a degree in Entrepreneurship because - while some of the methodologies like Lean or Agile were good to teach -  getting a degree in Entrepreneurship seemed to me to defeat the point of entrepreneurship and seemed to not only be exploiting the soccer-trophy generation's view (and their parents' bank account) that passing the test was the goal but also codifying it with the ultimate stamp of approval.Her reply?  She burst out laughing because she had just interviewed several candidates for a job three of whom had degrees in Entrepreneurship from prestigious universities and when she asked them why, given their degree, they were applying for a job, they asked her to explain what she meant by the question.

Hah, funny.  Learning to program changes your brain in a unique way, especially as you proceed to more complex levels.  I advocate everyone learning a certain basic level, and not just Hello World.  If it is a class, everyone will try it, understand the basics from that point on, and for those it clicks, they will take off.  Everything is becoming scriptable, automatable, and magical.  Do you want to create muggles or wizards?  This is exactly like teaching for factory work or farming vs. university / creative / professional / entrepreneurialism, but the next level.  Math, logic and language understanding, creative writing, art, etc. are all important, but only get you to the 20th century.  We do need better tools, environments, and ways of teaching programming (and futhermore, computer science).

Agreed re the programming, and Christine, though this discussion is resurrecting, I love your thoughts. I agree totally. I'm at a career/tech school that killed our programming vertical. Hmmmm... been trying to get it back--I'm just a history teacher. Regarding a class in entrepreneurship, I'm teaching economics this year. I snuck in double the work because they want to learn the basis of starting a company, investing, etc. I'm basically teaching a combination of Ramit Sethi's "I Will Teach You to Be Rich" with James Altucher's "Choose Yourself," a whole lot of Suze Orman for fun, and yes, Lean Startup's on my desk. I signed whoever'd do it up for Sam Altman's "How to Start a Startup" class. Oh, that's free, and real live Stanford kids are sitting in the lecture hall. My high schoolers aren't paying a dime. Who wins here? But you're right, a whole degree in it--get out there, start something, and read all the Steve Blank you can get your hands on. Stephen, I think coding should be offered as a language or math option in schools. My second grader's going to "Minecraft school." There's a home school family that needs a kid and my son wants anything to do with minecraft, so we do Saturday computers. Coding in minecraft will be soon, but for a second grader learning the 3D coordinate plane? I can't argue w that. 

The problem with the "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" / "Choose Yourself" / "How to Start a Startup" school is that they tend to downplay how long it takes, how much failure you go through, how much you struggle, how little time you have for anything but your company, and how difficult it is.

It's really, really difficult.

Kids starting out in T-ball know they have a long way to go to be in the major leagues.  Or at least they do by Little League.  If we taught children games, interaction, and story that imparted the nature of the struggle, ability and need to make yourself better and competitive for real reasons, and the nature of entrepreneurialism contrasted with employment alternatives, then they would know perfectly well what it takes.  And they might appreciate the challenge even while they gain skills through any means necessary, even plain old jobs (POJ).  My father sent me out selling things or my services, when I didn't know anything, door to door at a very young age.  It was frustrating and mostly useless, but I knew why.  Later I had spending money and bought my own computer, running shoes, and nice bicycle after getting lawnmowers by fixing broken ones and finding mowing jobs around town.  In fact, it allowed me to leave home at 15 and start teaching myself to program, in 1980 in very small town Ohio.  Thinking about it gives me some ideas for a solution.

Adam, You know, I don't think that those books imply it's easy, they just say "do this." There are plenty of people not "doing this." If I had done so in my 20's life may have been different but I was a textbook case of not planning properly then. There was always some emergency to solve. 

Stephen, I'm thinking about this. I don't  know whether team sports were helpful to me in that respect, but today I'm seeing a ton of not so good lessons coming from them. I'm going to put some thought into that. The POJ thing--absolutely !! I believe every kid needs a dose of fast food or some hard job. My grandmother gave me a box. It was a little blue checkbox. She told me to put 1 out of 10 of my dollars in there. I remember hoarding those dollars and counting them out, paying for my 8th grade trip to Boston ($88), some really bad middle and high school fashion, and all that stuff. That was really helpful. Paying my way through college--even moreso. I'm running the numbers with my students on college this week, telling them my school was overpriced for me, but I could do the chinup to make it happen--this won't be a possiblity for their generation. I said I just had to major in waitressing.

"You can do that, Miss?" Sigh. 

Sports have some value.  I was terrible at team sports so I did endurance sports, which are actually ideal for teaching the effectiveness of preparation and self improvement, while also regulating stress, anxiety, and anger.  But I didn't mean that reference literally, I was pointing out by analogy that it is silly for someone with no experience working, bargaining, thinking about value and service, etc. to expect to jump into successful entrepreneurialism fresh out of academics.

Stephen, that's a really good point.

Dawn, I'm wondering if it's smart to encourage people to do this. 

It's a much more difficult road than I think most people would want to sign up for. 

I'm also not necessarily for discouraging someone from jumping in either.  There is a fine balance of the conviction that you can and will be successful at something with the realization that you aren't prepared or assured or deserving of success.  While you don't want people to be shocked that they fail, you don't want them to avoid trying.  Perhaps that is one form of apparent arrogance that isn't really arrogance, possibly outwardly indistinguishable from the sense of entitlement superiorness of the truly arrogant.  Again, sports provides the most accessible example: teams know they must be confident they will win / do well to succeed while knowing full well that have 50% or less chance of doing so.

Separately, it should be more clear for various career paths what you tend to need to succeed, the various ways and probabilities of obtaining that experience, and the range of consequences that tend to happen and why.  At one point, I was gung ho about writing a book on technical / computer related career paths that tried to clarify.  But its low on my exciting priority list these days.  I've seen enough to have a lot of opinions for a lot of situations.  And it is often a sad case of the blind leading the blind with advice given to university students and others by professors, advisers, and others.  I don't know if every industry veteran would provide consistently helpful advice, but I'm confident that I can.  ;-)

Adam, I encourage them to purchase college on a value basis, not an ego basis, and really look at their options in life. Heck, I'm the only person in the world who never wanted to be an entrepreneur. And I'm still paying off college loans. This generation won't be able to do that chinup on the bar w the increased costs. Learning some skills and multitasking is essential... One girl told me she wanted to take a year off. Her plan wasn't solid and she already knew she wanted to be an RN, so I showed her the balance sheet on waiting a year for her. Just choose the best value college that gives $$ and work your way through. Don't party. But others who have no clue and are saying "Stanford" to me... we need to have that conversation. 

Stanford is so expensive. You're still paying off college loans. 

How long will this year's college graduates be paying their loans?

They will never pay them off if they do this wrong, Adam. It's the next big bubble. I've got 15K left. My fault for going to grad school for something that paid half my corporate job, but that's not the's why I stopped my Ph.D dreams. What's the point? That's a sad, sad way to look at formal education, but for all intents and purposes it started as something for wealthy for most of history, was accessible by the middle class post GI bill, and it's returned to where it started--as something for the people who can pay. Those are the very rich, the poor (financial aid) and a few scholarships in between. It's really a tough thing for the middle class. 

May seem like a negative. Doesn't have to be. Merely a glitch in a system full of glitches. Those who learn to get around those roadblocks are those destined for success anyway. It's the American way;) 

As for Stanford, keep in mind that their financial based scholarships are very good.  I was told several years ago that if parents' income was less than $120K tuition was free and for less than $70K, everything including housing is free.  Stanford has a huge endowment, so if you get into the school, it can be worth going to.  On the other hand, I took a few classes there as a professional.  That program charges the full $3800 per class ($1600 per credit hour).  Total and painful waste of money, although valuable experience of Stanford teleeducation practices somewhat prior to MOOCs.  Especially now that those classes are available for free as MOOCs...

There is a balance for college.  And a big difference depending on the trajectory of the individual.  Someone very bright on a fast track can do very well with a more respected education, but that's probably only really true for certain fields.  Computer science for a top student is far more valuable at a small set of top schools than at all of the rest me-too universities.  Students probably have a hard time realizing that.  I did a programming contest at a small college in Virginia and I really felt sorry for the students.My youngest daughter is very bright, but was too interested in partying in high school.  She went away to community college (in California, tuition is practically free at that level although books and living costs were just as significant).  After a year of catch up and two of core classwork where she grew into a great student, she transferred to UCSB and finished her Psych degree, plus extra classes that has her mostly positioned for medicine.  Even UC's in California aren't too expensive for in-state, perhaps $12-16K/yr. now.  I moved from Virginia outside DC to Silicon Valley her junior year to be a resident.  The biggest reason for that was to change the high school culture from too much anti-intellectualism to education friendly and more relaxed socially.  That includes even the local police stance.Anyway, we're at the early rumblings in a revolution in education.  And we're even earlier but on a sure path to AI automated factories, farming, building, etc.  Both of those are going to force examination of various economic assumptions and mechanisms.  What happens in a gradually post-work world at various inflection points?

And, my path through life looks more and more fortuitous:  I am nearly all self-taught, with just 3 undergraduate math classes in 1984/85.  I am an auto-didact.  But, then I managed to get into a CompSci master's program (without a BA!) and finally finished my thesis and degree last year.  I know both sides now to some extent.

I'd imagine in a post-work world that the ability to self-motivate and learn on one's own would be even more important. Especially with the vast amount of material increasingly available online. 

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